Nathan Hager, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - It may be the middle of spring but for parents, the time to start planning that summer family vacation is now.
For as long as the U.S. highway system has existed, parents have been looking for ways to distract kids on long drives. Whether it's with cards, board games, Mad Libs or license plate bingo, parents want to avoid those infamous four words, "Are we there yet?"
However, these days, in-car DVD players and iPods have made complaints, and family games, nearly obsolete.
But that could change this summer. Whether parents want to limit road trip screen-time or simply get their kids to look out the window every once in a while, old-fashioned distractions may be back in fashion.
National Geographic has come out with a couple of books aimed at grade-school children that it hopes will fill that need: "Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas" and "National Parks Guide U.S.A."
The road atlas includes maps of every state, along with sections like "Boredom Busters," "Fun Facts," "Wacky Roadside Attractions" and "Silly Signs."
"Kids can be real fact hounds. I mean, they just love to take in that information," says Jennifer Emmett, editorial director of children's books at National Geographic.
"Kids can look up from the (Nintendo) DS or look up from the DVD, look outside the window and really get an understanding of the country," she says.
The books also highlight locations and information that may appeal more to kids than their parents, giving them a hand in planning the trip.
Emmett says that kids are happier on trips if they feel engaged, and involving them in planning is a great way to do that.
Happy kids make for a happier trip, Emmett says.
And that's hard to dispute.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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